Posts Tagged With: autumn

On the way to Grand Marais

The first weekend in October we took a road trip to Grand Marais. It’s just over four hours by car, though that assumes no stops (which is never a safe assumption with me in the car). Here are some of the things we saw on the drive.

We were delayed briefly in road construction on 35 near Hinckley, so we enjoyed the colorful trees.

trees starting to change color - mostly green but some yellow and orange

Lunch in Duluth, with a quick glimpse at the lift bridge as we sped past.

lift bridge between the arena and the aquarium

On the north end of Duluth, we got our first clear look at Lake Superior.

the lake out to the horizon, with the highway guardrail in the foreground

We took the Highway 61 expressway to Two Harbors rather than the scenic drive along the shore. Of course we had to take one brief turn off the highway to see Pierre the Voyageur. He used to be at the Voyageur Motel in Two Harbors, but now he’s a greeter just before you reach the town. He looks like he has no pants, although his new owners have said he’s wearing tights. (I didn’t get close enough to verify.)

statue of a man holding a canoe paddle

A sign of autumn: pumpkins for sale in Two Harbors.

signs for sweet corn and pumpkins under a white tent

The tunnel that’s a familiar milestone to everyone heading north on Highway 61.

cars driving into and out of Silver Creek Cliff tunnel

My in-motion photo of the brief glimpse of Split Rock Lighthouse from 61 was so blurry that I deleted it. We then made a spontaneous stop at Gooseberry State Park for a short hike out to the falls. The rest area at Gooseberry is one of the few locations in Minnesota state parks where a parking permit is not necessary (though we have one anyway). It was late afternoon on Friday and the parking lot was packed; cars were even circling to grab a space when others were leaving. I bet it was even busier the next day.

the top of middle falls on the left side

Finally entering Cook County!

Highway 61 with a Cook County sign

We’d been advised that a tram ride at Lutsen Mountains is always fun but essentially required in autumn – and we were lucky enough to hit a peak weekend for fall color. We were there in late afternoon with the sun just starting to set behind the mountain…

tram near the top of Lutsen Mountains

…but looking the other direction, a gorgeous autumn view!

hundreds of trees, mostly orange and yellow with some green pines

The charming trams, whose days are numbered…

three cars that look like red apples

…because a new tram system is about to be launched.

new tram mechanism at the top of the mountain

A view of Lake Superior in the distance on the way back down the mountain.

a sliver of the lake in the distance, with lots of pines in the foreground

Our tram’s shadow in the orange trees.

The second day we were in Grand Marais, we ventured north to Naniboujou Lodge for a late lunch. I had a ridiculously delicious turkey club sandwich with cranberry and mustard, which seems like a strange combination but worked. I also had their famous french onion soup and burned my mouth because I couldn’t wait until it cooled.

side view of the building, with lots of windows in the cedar shake siding

Everyone takes pictures of the ceiling inside the lodge’s restaurant, and it’s easy to see why.

a hanging light fixture underneath a multicolor, patterned ceiling

Of course we also visited the state park (Magney) that’s across the street from the lodge. More about that will be in a future post. (So will Grand Marais itself.)

We stopped at a public beach in Colvill on the way back to Grand Marais. I was mesmerized by the Lake Superior’s giant waves all weekend.

On the way back to the Cities on Sunday afternoon, we made a quick detour in Silver Bay to see Rocky Taconite.

statue that looks like two large taconite balls with arms and legs

A short stop in Two Harbors to see the grand Lake County courthouse. We had stumbled across it on a cloudy day in August and wanted to see it again on a nicer day.

four columns on a Beaux Arts building with a dome

Even a rest stop is beautiful in autumn. We pulled over at this one just outside Knife River because a sign advertised a historical marker, which noted that the four-lane divided part of Highway 61 is called the Arthur V. Rohweder Memorial Highway.

red maples at the Knife River rest stop

It was at this point that Bill decided to take over the driving responsibility. I think he had had enough “detours” – though we had already planned to stop in Knife River anyway for the Great Lakes Candy Company. We picked up caramels, chocolate-covered toffee, and sponge candy.

Only in Minnesota: a sign advertising a fishcake supper.

sandwich board sign along the highway

We took the scenic half of highway 61 after Knife River. There are many pulloff areas for viewing Lake Superior. Just north of Duluth, we saw a barge.

Our last stop of the trip was at the Thomson Hill Information Center, a rest stop on the south end of Duluth, where we saw the barge heading toward the lift bridge.

lift bridge in the distance, colorful trees in the foreground

More from the North Shore

Categories: Cook County, Lake County, St. Louis County | Tags: | Leave a comment

My favorite color is October

I can’t take credit for that phrase, but I agree with it wholeheartedly. Especially this October, which has been widely credited as one of the prettiest anyone can remember. Nearly every day has featured bright blue skies to match the brightly colored leaves.

We made many weekend trips across the state to enjoy the many phases of fall. I’ll admit that the first two photos were taken in September, though the autumn sentiment remains.

The newly replaced swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park:

swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park

At the lake in northwest Minnesota:

at the lake

The first weekend of October, the only colorful trees on the Minnesota side of Interstate State Park were at the visitors center:

sign at the entrance of Interstate State Park, with colorful oaks in the background

Snail Lake Regional Park in Shoreview:

oak trees along a walking path

Lake Bemidji – pretty even on a cloudy day:

dock and yellow tree on the edge of Lake Bemidji

Tamaracks – deciduous conifers that lose their needles after they change color – at Itasca State Park:

a row of yellow tamarack trees

A walk in the woods in northwest Minnesota – even with most leaves already down, it’s still beautiful:

a leaf-covered walking path

Canoeing on a lake in northwest Minnesota:

a canoe on a lake with brown oak trees in the background

Peak color reaches the Twin Cities last. Downtown St. Paul:

bright red maples outside George Latimer Central Library

The West River Parkway in Minneapolis was so gorgeous with so many different colors at once:

green, yellow, orange, red leaves near a streetlight

Driving through Bluff Country in southeast Minnesota – past peak but the oaks are still vibrant:

a bluff covered with red oak trees beyond the highway

584 steps up to the top of the bluff at John A. Latsch State Park:

overlooking Highway 61, the Mississippi River, and lots of oak trees

See more of my autumn photos at

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Fall at Fairhaven Farm

Fairhaven Farm sign

Watch the road signs because this sign is mostly obscured.

North of the town of South Haven is the small community of Fairhaven. On the western edge of the town is Fairhaven Farm, which is busy with apple-picking, hay rides, pumpkins, grapes, and more in the fall. (It’s not to be mistaken for Fair Haven Farm, a horse-jumping facility less than an hour’s drive to the southeast.)

Fairhaven Farm

Decked out for fall.

apples in crates

Freshly picked apples.

Behind the barn is a garden with a walkway through the flowers and ornamental vegetables, nice even on the cold and misty early October day we visited. Chickens were roaming in the yard.

The orchard contains more than 20 varieties of apples, and they’re still creating new ones. Their Kinderkrisp apple (child of Minnesota favorite Honeycrisp) has its own website and is now being sold in tree form.

Had we known, we would have tried it, but we chose another of Fairhaven’s own, Intensity, based on looks as well as the fact that it’s only grown here. Both apples are new enough that they’re not even listed on the farm’s apples page!

u pick, this way

Heading out to the u-pick fields.

Apples, pumpkins, grapes, and even fall-bearing raspberries were ready for picking, but we were just out to explore.

apple path

Looking across the rows of apples.

We walked past rows and rows of red and yellow apples, as well as grapes, but we didn’t even see the raspberries or pumpkins. There are also you-pick strawberries and vegetables during the summer.

a pair of yellow apples

Yellow apples.

We stopped in the barn after our rain-shortened self-guided tour and picked up two squashes and a bag of Intensity apples. There’s also a gift shop with decorations as well as unique farm-made jam such as blueberry lime, strawberry balsamic jalapeño, and muskmelon. We wished we had brought more cash so we could have picked up a couple flavors for gifts. Another time.

Intensity apple

A taste of Fairhaven at our house.

Fairhaven Farm

Visited: October 6, 2013

Categories: Stearns County | Tags: | Leave a comment

Lake Maria State Park

red oak leaves

The trees were in peak fall color when we visited.

Lake Maria (ma-RYE-ah) State Park is a short drive west of the Twin Cities, just outside Monticello.

Sign at the entrance to Lake Maria State Park

The sign at the entrance to the park.

Fall is a beautiful time to explore this park’s trails.


One of the park’s many lakes.

It’s one of the last remaining parts of the Big Woods of Minnesota, and glaciers left many potholes, marshes, and lakes in this area.

Maria Lake

It may be Lake Maria State Park, but this is Maria Lake.

The park is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013.

Road sign: rare turtle crossing

The Blandings turtle, a threatened species, can be found in the park, but we did not see any.

The rare and threatened Blandings turtle lives in the park, as do hundreds of species of birds.

Interpretive sign describing the mosquito as 'vampire of the marsh'

Vampire of the marsh: This sign says that the mosquito plays a very important role in the wetland food chain, despite being a nuisance to mammals.

You’ll find lots of maples, oaks and basswood. Many trees have passed their peak color has passed for 2013, but the oaks are at peak now.

path through yellow trees

One of my favorite fall photos.

Lake Maria State Park

Visited: October 2, 2010

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